The Dwarves comes from King Art Games, best known for their patented point-and-click adventures The Book of Unwritten Tales and Critter Chronicles, and The Raven are back, this time with something that literally fits into a few sub-genres.
It’s based upon a series of novels from writer Markus Heitz, and understandably just like movies that tie in with books and comics etc, a few liberties have to be taken to form the source material into something that works with the media to which it is being translated.
So what we have here is a bit of a Fighting Fantasy-type story book, with a few RPG elements and battles that similar to what you’d expect to see from the Total War games due to sheer numbers on-screen at times, plus a bit of RTS like Command and Conquer where you have only a few characters that must survive a scenario. It is a mix up that works surprisingly well and has captured the feel of the books nicely. I did buy The Dwarves Book 1 from the Kindle store a few days after getting the game for review to see how things fare up against the source material – granted a few things have changed but it is faithful enough.
So, the story goes that the titular Dwarves are the protectors of the realm (Girdlegard), who have been tasked with this by their god, Vraccas. As the story unfolds (book and game), the gate that has been built to keep the Perished Land from spreading and keeping the Alfar and their horde of Orcs out, but is attacked and then opened so the land can be overrun. On top of that, any foe that is touched by the corruption of the perished land gets resurrected as a mindless shell to do the bidding of the Alfar – this is how they got through the closed gate, by killing the Dwarves and waiting for them to spring back to undead life and open it for them.
Jump forward a few years and you take control of a Dwarven blacksmith named Tungdil. He was found by a mage and brought up in one of the mage teaching schools. There he does daily tasks such as putting shoes on horses, repairing any equipment that gets damaged and so on. He’s called upon by Lot Ionan (the mage who brought him up) to collect up a bag of items and take them to another mage elsewhere in the land. Hence, this is where you head out on a journey of adventure, discovery and Dwarves!
The gameplay sees you moving your player round an overworld map, where each town or location of interest has a marker. Between these areas there are lines drawn to join them up; longer distances do have additional small stopping points. Each point you will get a piece of narration as to what is going on, or some talk between you and any characters that have joined your party. The chat between party members usually has a few options you can go through to find out more about them and their history. The towns will either have a side quest attached to them where you hear more narration and may have to investigate something by talking to different townsfolk via dialog boxes on the world map, or the town may be getting attacked and you happen to be there at the right time to assist the defence. You’ll also get markers for your main quest points and a few additional markers with question marks. Investigate these markers to find additional items and get a bit more back story.
The battle system really stands out. You have to use Tungdil regardless, but can choose up to an additional 3 characters to support you during play. Each character has his/her own advantages over other characters, so you can put a group together depending on how you play. The Orcs swarm at you, leaving you surrounded quite a bit of the time. So using your skills tactically is a must: if on a bridge, then using a heavy swipe to one side can send a load of enemies falling off the other side; if a character is getting swamped and low on health, you can do a real-time pause and have someone else jump in near him, which will create a shockwave knocking Orcs back over away from the character which can give you a moments breathing space and so on.
The Orcs, when hit with sweeping attacks, can end up toppling much in the same way pins do when you go bowling. You do have to be careful, though, as a poorly timed – or placed – attack can hit a friendly and cause them to be dazed/knocked off an open ravine/bridge, or if low on health, end up killing them, resulting in having to start the battle again. On some of the tougher battles, like the Orc encampment near Ogres Death, I found myself using a faster Dwarf, or the female with similar skills and luring groups of enemies back to a safer area to gradually shrink enemy numbers – this takes a bit longer, but after a few failed attempts, I wanted to clear the area.
Go to page 2 for more thoughts on the game.